> where lamp posts are always watching you
CCTVs are very, very common in South Korea. This isn't something special to Songdo, and CCTVs are the number-one reason that South Korea has the 5th highest rate of people that think walking around in the dark is safe. Nobody thinks that CCTVs are surveillance; people believe the government in general.
> small touch screen display on his kitchen wall that allows him to keep track of his and his wife’s consumption of electricity, water and gas and, most important, compare it against the average statistics for the building.
This is super-common in Seoul, it's not something special in Songdo or such.
> It claims to have the highest concentration of green Leed-certified buildings in the world, yet it is still entirely car-based, with not even a train line to the nearby airport.
One thing to keep in mind is that South Korea generally (especially Seoul) is a very public-transport friendly, with a pretty-high 40% percentage of all transport (user's own car takes 39% of all transport).
The time when Songdo was planned, the high public-transport percentage was considered a 'bad-thing'. People tried to model the 'America Way', and that's why Songdo was constructed with an emphasis on car-based transport.
This plan was reverted years ago, and Songdo is currently constructing four subway routes.
> From South Korea to Malaysia, ‘smart cities’ turn to ghost towns
Songdo is not a ghost town, that is just plain wrong. It was one of the most successful cities in South Korea. It's population is rapidly increasing every year, with a competitive rate of 4855:1 to move in Songdo. Also, unlike the article's explanation, a big fraction of Songdo population comes from provinces other than Seoul (which is something similar to rural areas in the US).
Overall, this article is overly emphasizing things that are nothing to Koreans but can be seen negatively to Americans; the explanation about Songdo are plain-wrong; and I just can't see what this article is trying to say.
Also the hour and a half ride is a big deal but not too big of a deal. Parts of Seoul are an hour subway from Seoul. When I lived there, it was close enough that we would go to our friend's place before clubbing in Gangnam some nights. (Pretty sure we took a taxi to the club though)
Mass surveillance does not provide much benefit but comes at extreme risk of abuse. Even without resorting to the typical examples, one needs only look to things like such as 'LOVEINT' . The NSA were/(are?) spying on potential and present love interests so often that they created a tongue in cheek term for it. And obviously keep in mind that that the incidents where NSA agents were busted is likely but a fraction of all incidents.
But I do think one ought also consider the typical examples. In particular the Holocaust was carried out using nothing more than a census and some incredibly primitive computing technologies provided by IBM. What will happen the next time an awful person gains power, or are we supposed to hope this will simply never happen? We ought never support, implicitly or otherwise, domestic surveillance.
 - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2013/08/24...
I thought NY/Chicago doesn't have as much CCTVs in narrow streets as South Korea?
Was interested in this: NY(784km^2) has about 2000 cameras that NYPD deployed (~3 cameras/km^2). Seoul(605km^2) had about 48697 cameras that the metropolitan government has installed (~80 cameras/km^2).
> Or, similarly, it would suggest that people would not feel safe walking around in areas in Korea that do not have extensive CCTVs.
Basically, every street you can go to has CCTVs in Seoul. The portion of streets without CCTV installed is absurdly low.
> Mass surveillance does not provide much benefit but comes at extreme risk of abuse.
I agree that there is a big risk of abuse here; but I have to disagree with the point that CCTVs provide little benefit. CCTVs allow the arrest rates of 'the five violent crimes' (Murder, robbery, rape, theft, violence) go up from 79% in 2011 to 100% in 2016.
87% of all people agrees to install more CCTVs, 12% thinks that the current CCTV is appropriate; and only 1% thinks that there are too much CCTVs.
IMO, keeping an eye on the government whether they are using CCTVs inappropriately is a better choice than just insisting on not installing CCTVs.
Recently two guys were seen on a CCTV doing speed (amphetamine) in a car. So the police went after them, then later they have been charged.
So it "works", but of course two dudes duing a few stipes of speed is not exactly the crime of the century.
And ... on the other hand, as you point out, it's not the surveillance apparatus that matters, but the intent of the powers that be. IBM and censuses are still around, just as racism/xenophobia/lack-of-empathy. Census questions are a hot topic. Just as caging people that want a better future for themselves.
Therefore I think CCTVs and the debate around them - especially on HN - is just noise, because so far I haven't seen any proper data and study on them.
Things that I didn't like so much: it definitely felt like there had been a shift away from bringing in businesses to housing, so that you end up with blocks upon blocks of apartments, and with empty business districts. I worked in a high-rise that had an identical 30-story building next to it, completely empty. The Incheon government is trying to turn the tide by attracting biotech and more universities, but it will probably take years before the balance is properly restored.
Thank you for sharing this. Far more than the article's specific concerns like CCTV coverage, planned cities seem to fail when these things aren't present. Places like the planned core of Brasilia or Section 8 highrises in the US are defined by interchangeable spaces, a lack of pleasant third places, and restrictive use of land (either by policy, like banning gardens, or logistics, like paving deadspace and closing rooftops).
Overbuilding is definitely a concern, too. It's not just a waste, it tends to feel isolating and interfere with more natural as-needed expansion. It's not as catastrophic as rendering inhabited spaces alienating, though, so hopefully things will stabilize in time.
Also why do people trust the government when it only became a democracy about 30 years ago, and things like this happened? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Struggle#Torture_and_deat...
Considering that the country's entire history span about 70 years (excluding the provisional government; the provisional government is exactly 100 yrs old in 2019), 30 years is a long time.
Presidents are elected with direct election; a direct consequence from the Park Jong-chol incident you have mentioned, and 1987 is the year of South Korea's 'real' democracy.
People have the power to impeach presidents with peaceful protests and people are proud of it.
South Korea's democracy is highly trusted in the country, IMHO.
Not without flaws of course (election of dynastics in a democracy is generally a warning sign of power being used to self-perpetuate).
SK is a well managed country but dont equate obedience or ignorance with trust.
Also koreans are simply ignorant about things like individualism and too much interference from the ones in power.
No one was ever punished for those deaths. No one suffered any professional, administrative or political demotion, censure or firing.
Or you're arguing against whatever case you're trying to make.
Funny, downvotes :-) You might not like it, but it's true, the South Korean government (and people) went from poor to rich in basically 1 generation. Just like in China, people don't really care about abuses if their overall life is improving and they're not impacted directly...
Sorry, after seeing your edited one, I couldn’t resist myself writing this comment.
Your comment implies that South Koreans are e.g. pigs that don’t care about democracy but just care about their own lives. That’s very ignorant (at the very least).
Your comment basically just plainly ignores so much South Korea citizens that protested to get democracy.
You know what? The presidents that ran the country in a dictationship, used force to remove any protesting people got their righteousness from the US.
Spanning as early as 1960 (when president Lee Seung Man tried to dictate the country with illegal elections) to 1987 (when South Korea finally got to elect our own presidents after 1960), people protested a lot. A LOT. Please search about the 1960 4.3 incident, 1979’s Bu-Ma protests, 1980’s Kwangju Democratic Uprising, 1987’s June protests, on and on...
Your comment also shows your view about China. People in China care about democracy they aren’t pigs either. Have you ever heard about the incidents in Tiananmen Square?
People care about democracy.
Please don’t think that people only care about themselves.
Have you considered the idea that other cultures and nations have different ideas about how much authority they delegate to their government, and that not everyone is troubled by the fact that the government runs cameras if it means a higher degree of safety?
I've spent a lot of time in China and other Asian countries for work related reasons primarily and it is absolutely true that there's a lot of personal drive, lower trust in civic society, and much more trust in the state to organise personal life.
What's truly a narrow-minded caricature of the world is the idea that every Chinese person is secretly striving for Anglo-protestant values of freedom and charity oppressed by their government or something.
The important difference between China and Korea is that China killed everyone involved quite publicly as soon as protests started. If protestors in Korea had known they’d die after the first large protest there would have been few volunteers for a second.
People (taken as an overall population) care about democracy after they care about their general well-being.
That doesn't make them pigs, it makes them rational.
Just one nit: 4855:1 came from an article in 2007 about the initial applications for an office-tel (basically a high-rise building with offices and apartments). After 12 years, I believe Songdo has a new problem of too many ongoing housing projects and not enough people to fill the apartments to be built.
Seoul was considered very safe when I visited there ten years ago. I believe that was before CCTV cameras were common.
Where did you find this figure?
I wonder how the UK fares given the oft cited, but potentially wrong, stat that the UK has the highest number of CCTVs in the world.
https://time.com/4983344/worlds-safest-best-worst-cities/ says Seoul is 14th in 2017 and
https://safearound.com/danger-rankings/cities/ says Seoul is 5th.
I can't find about the rate of being safe in the dark, sorry :-(
It's much easier if people can assume it's not locals involved, but instead scary gangsters from london (code for black people?).
I get that you don't believe their real, but I'm curious about how much effort you've taken to investigate the phenomena.
Never heard the term before, learnt something new today I guess :)
I get it, we all hate Trump, but our Mayor should not have to worry about foreign presidents, no matter how dumb these presidents are. The UK has a foreign secretary for that work. The Mayor should entirely focus his efforts and OUR TAX MONEY on the issues which our city has. I hate it that our hard earned tax money is being used for the Mayor to fund his personal PR campaigns to further progress his political career. How is that useful to anyone?
And yes, I agree, the government is 100% responsible for cuts to the public sector and that's why all the establishment parties (Tories and Labour) are both in the shits, because they both have failed this country. There's no party I could currently vote for. Tories have literally wasted everyone's time and money for the last couple years with their own Game of Thrones game in their ranks, Labour is just an incognito racist party with Corbyn being dumb and ideological which is a dangerous combination (like Hitler was), Lib Dem and Greens are like a water melon, green on the outside, but red inside, and UKIP is just a disgrace full stop.
They are all responsible for the UK's problems, but when I have to point my finger at someone for the problems in London, then the first instance is the Mayor of London.
The article also speaks of these cities as not intended for the rural poor migrating to the city. Edward Glaeser's Triumph of the City examines (among other things) why the rural poor flock to cities: no matter how dismal the slum, it's still better than the farm, and it's at least possible for some entrepreneurs to get started. Smart cities that exclude the poor and working class can't thrive.
Glaeser shows that cities are engines of economic growth, but this requires clean water and sanitary living for everyone, and only state intervention can provide that. Instead of building high tech playgrounds, cities should literally clean up their act. Getting clean water is not glamourous, and probably not lucrative to individual actors, but in the end it pays off.
I think I'd rephrase that. It's generally not that bad on the farm, but it's a dead end. People (especially young people) will almost always choose to be uncomfortable if it results in a chance of a better life.
I used to hang out for a while in a native bar in Winnipeg. Virtually everybody there was just scraping by. Quite a few were homeless and were spending whatever money they had got begging on a beer. Every single person that I talked to told me that the reserve (with all its faults) was dramatically better than the streets of Winnipeg. But having talked up a big story about how they were going to go to the city and makes something of themselves, most were embarrassed to go back to the reserve. Quite a few of them got caught up with addiction, etc and couldn't save enough for the bus ticket back (Manitoba is a big province and some of these guys were from a long way away).
As a bit of an aside, the first time I went to that bar, I was dragged kicking and screaming by a colleague. I was scared to death to go in there. But it ended up being one of the nicest, friendliest bars I've ever had the privilege of being in. A culture shock, to be sure, but not at all in a bad way.
Rural peasants have been getting screwed by wealthy local aristocrats since the beginning of agriculture thousands of years ago. Peasants have their wealth stolen, get pressed into forced labor, get killed or raped on a whim, have their agricultural output seized while they don’t have enough food for themselves, have their land stolen and given to someone more powerful or better connected, ....
But the big outward migrations from rural places come when there is massive population growth but no commensurate growth in jobs. People’s choice ends up being to either starve or move. The first stop is the nearest big city.
I'll draw on Hong Kong as an example, as I'm very familiar with it. Society is flawed, and property developers are de facto rulers, taxing people through rent. That is unsustainable and horrible. Now that has been established, let me talk about the things that do work.
New towns have been built over the last several decades, both by the government and private developers. 30-50-storey residential towers on top of a podium/park, a mall and bus station underneath alongside rail stations, and underground parking space below that. It's far from perfect, but it uniquely solves a number of problems in elegant ways.
It funnels customers effectively through the malls (effectively streets). There is room for recreation on the podium floors and through various services in the mall. They tend to contain lots of family-oriented businesses like daycare centers. Schools and public transit are within short walking distance. Commuters are quickly spirited to various town centers and business districts. Local businesses are thriving in a vibrant business landscape as they have a solid customer base and easy foot traffic.
The very dense nature of the residential towers has allowed Hong Kong to keep its nature parks which are only a short ways away from a large segment of the population. (Yes, this has come at the expense of living space in cramped apartments).
I could go on, but my point is this: It is possible to plan cities that work. It has been done, and it doesn't have to be for rich people.
Hong Kong has learned this lesson through decades of trial and error. The early housing projects didn't really work. But aside from the luxurious investment-geared developments, Hong Kong is seeing a continuous supply of new towns built for the middle class, and (too little) public housing built for the rest. And these are places people enjoy to live in. I think Jane Jacobs would approve
Funny part is all the frustration of no jobs, no opportunities, and prison cell home is blamed on China and the discontent which needs to be pointed towards the 14 real estate billionaires controlling every aspect of Hong Kong person's life and freedom is very nicely directed towards China as if they made things so bad in Hong Kong.
Reality is Hong Kong relied too much on real estate and traded living in prison cell houses for getting rich quick scheme. So the current situation is created by it. After living in Hong Kong for over a decade as an expat can understand pretty well when living in a expat bubble it's hard to see things for majority.
Hopefully no city in the world follow Hong Kong model of development will result in same protest and violence be it democracy or autocracy.
If you want to look at the model go across in Singapore, they have done a wonderful job learning public housing from Hong Kong. They have done wonders with overall urbanization.
So I am not sure how to defend Hong Kong where the repercussions of this form of urbanization is manifested in the form of protest and discontent.
Most middle-class and rich think of smart cities as just large gated communities. But unlike a gated community, a city needs a large number of lower middle class workers. If you "sweep them under the rug" by relegating them outside, you might end up with slums anyway, albeit outside the boundary.
Large scale planner cities are not doomed to failure. Some of them will be done well and thrive and some will be utter disasters, losing all the investors’ money and plentiful public funds. But given the pace of urbanisation in the developing world massive planned city building or expansion of the existing cities is inevitable.
Sanity calls for embracing the non-deteminism. Wall Street wasn't intended as a world financial center but that is what it wound up as.
I suspect a "modular garden" approach works best as a balance of setting up infastructure and zoning for purposes to be filled on demand. Japan at least has apparently had luck with building train/subway line loops, selling land to developers and renting out retail spaces in and near stations.
I'm 30 minutes to Seoul by public transport, literally don't need a car because everything is walkable, and there are many things to do (way more than the Washington DC suburb I grew up in). I didn't even know Ilsan was a planned city until I was told so.
And isn't every city "planned" in some sense via zoning laws and such? Is Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan not a "planned" community?
I've never seen an apartment with a daily loudspeaker announcement that can't be turned off, that's ridiculous and in no way a norm in South Korea.
I much prefer the planned cities I've lived in here in Korea to the drab lifeless suburbs in America where you can't do anything without a car and the commercial areas are just giant chain stores/restaurants.
I have to say that getting around without a car is rather nice in daily life, but the public transportation around town was disappointing. And it’s odd that it takes 45 minutes longer to get to the Incheon airport from my Songdo apartment than from downtown Seoul, despite being much closer.
Edit: Here's some old alpha screenshots of my app flying over Songdo and me: https://m.imgur.com/a/dK21yca
so the question is, how to build a smart city the right way?
for starters, i don't think starting from scratch is a good idea, as that leads to overplanning and making predictions that don't pan out. better to pick an existing quarter and modernize that.
we have been modernizing cities for centuries, and we'll obviously continue to do so, so any future smart cities (if they are created) will all be based on existing cities, because it's not like we can just leave all our current cities behind and build new ones right next to them.
building a smart city from scratch is like a city-planners dream: let's build the ultimate city, and make it smart too.
what we really should be doing is to ask: how can we use smart city technology to enrich our peoples lives where they are now?
For architects, green field development is a chance to realize their dreams without constraint. For analysts and intellectuals, it's a chance to properly test theories and get clean, measurable data. For politicians, it's a way to receive full credit for a project and avoid the backlash from disrupting existing cities. For urban reformers who are burned out on the slow, uneven process of updating ancient cities, starting from scratch is a chance to improve things cheaply and escape dependency issues. For contractors and technologists, it's a chance to sell profitable end-to-end services.
But for everyone who lives there, it sucks. The same way Joel Spolsky reminds us that the warts on old software often serve real purposes, old cities are full of concessions to climate, travel patterns, consumer needs, and general sanity. Lucio Costa might want symmetry, lack of sprawl, and clear traffic lanes, but the people stuck living in the piloto of Brasilia want memorable layouts, walkable streets, and gradual expansion.
The silliest thing about most sci-fi cities is that they're all gleaming spires and high-tech grandeur. As you say, the cities of the future will grow from the cities and towns of the present. Any vision worth attempting needs to leave room for the people and the history already there.
China also has many artificial obscure tech industry city efforts, all as successful as you would image (ie, not st all).
Nah, it didn't fail (unlike the impression that the article tries to give), please see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20476405.
Without support at the federal level, I find it hard to imagine the project will succeed.
penthouse pictures of one of these high rises
The Guardian piece was also submitted a few days ago around here:
Jesus, this is straight from 1984. Why would someone agree to live in place like that
Maybe there's no off switch, but the barrier to more drastic measures seems to be social, rather than the death sentence it would have been in 1984. That doesn't mean this is alright, bad and intrusive design causes social problems, but I think it's a mistake to conflate design flaws with intentional coercion.
But the next line is "I hate technology but my husband is an early adopter. He has to have everything first.”, so I'm pretty sure the problem with taking a hammer to the speaker is marital rather than political. This isn't 1984, it's a lesson in how bad design aggravates social friction and personal disagreements.
Most tech started removing off switches around 15 years ago anyway.